Department of Florida

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Legislative Agenda

  • Support VA’s suicide prevention efforts

    As our nation deals with the effects of nearly two decades of war, the need for mental health services for our veterans will no doubt increase in the years to come. It is imperative to combat
    VA’s staffing shortage by increasing recruitment and retention budgets, while also expanding direct hiring authority to medical center directors to expedite the hiring process of mental health professionals. All health care possibilities should be explored and considered to find the appropriate treatments, therapies and cures for veterans suffering from visible and/or invisible wounds. The American Legion strongly advocates for complementary and alternative therapy and urges Congress to provide VA the necessary funding to increase its Integrative Health and Wellness Program.
    (Resolutions 28 and 165)

  • Fully fund a superior national defense as the global war on terror continues        

    It is critical to maintain a well-funded national security strategy to ensure a strong national defense. The United States must enhance foreign policy, improve military intelligence, and increase cyber operations and capabilities. The American Legion advocates for a good quality of life for our troops and an improved transition process from military service to civilian life. The Legion vows to fight against those who desire to reduce the benefits of veterans, servicemembers, and their families to obtain short-term budget gains.
    (Resolutions 17 and 86)

  • Create lifetime electronic health record – ACHIEVED

    The American Legion supports VA in finally implementing a quality lifetime electronic health record (EHR) system that works in concert with the Department of Defense system to ensure that veterans’ medical documents transfer seamlessly from active service to VA and community providers.
    (Resolution 83)

  • Institute gender-specific health care for women veterans

    Women veterans face remarkably different experiences than their male counterparts when transitioning in and out of combat roles, in between services or back to civilian life. VA must
    ensure an improved quality of life for women veterans with gender-specific health care to meet their needs.
    (Resolution 147)

  • Limit outsourcing, unify VA’s programs ACHIEVED

    Continued focus is needed to ensure VA can meet challenges in delivering high-quality, timely benefits and health care to veterans. In 2018, critical policy choices must be made, primarily
    the future of the Veterans Choice Program, which expires in August. A community care option is now a basic expectation for enrollees in VA’s  health-care system. Excessive outsourcing would render VHA too small to function economically or preserve quality of care and essentially dismantle it. Congress should pass legislation to unify VA’s multiple non-VA care programs with VA as the coordinator and guarantor of care.
    (Resolution 372)

  • Support those who care for wounded veterans – ACHIEVED

    There are 5.5 million caregivers who go unnoticed while they care for America’s wounded. Military caregivers suffer higher rates of depression and health problems than others. The American Legion is committed to supporting these hidden heroes.
    (Resolution 146)

  • Reclassify cannabis for medical research

    The American Legion supports increased research into cannabis as part of the larger effort to develop complementary and alternative treatments and therapies. Cannabis is classified
    as schedule I drug and drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and methadone are classified as schedule II drugs. The American Legion urges Congress to amend legislation to remove
    Cannabis from schedule I and reclassify it in  a category that, at a minimum, will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value, and further urge the Drug Enforcement
    Agency to license privately-funded medical cannabis production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.
    (Resolutions 11,160,165)

  • Defend veterans education benefits – ACHIEVED

    As the primary author of the original GI Bill,  The American Legion continues to focus on the sustainability of this important earned benefit, while ensuring that veterans receive the most benefit possible from it.
    (Resolution 349)

  • Repeal unfair offsets that penalize disabled veterans and widows

    Many military retirees must forfeit some of their retirement pay to receive their VA service connected disability compensation. It is equally outrageous VA survivor benefits (DIC) are offset
    from military Survivor Benefit Plan annuities. The American Legion supports legislation to repeal both of these unjust offsets.
    (Resolutions 85 and 224)

  • Provide mandatory end-of service exams for reservists

    Active-duty servicemembers have the right to physical examinations when separating. After all, servicemembers retiring from active duty are required to have such examinations. This
    same right to an end-of-service exam is only partially authorized for reserve component servicemembers. This unfair treatment must be changed.
    (Resolution 85)

  • Create an American Legion Commemorative Coin – ACHIEVED

    The American Legion will celebrate its centennial in 2018-2019. An American Legion Centennial Coin is under consideration by the U.S. Mint. Timely congressional authorization is needed and your support is requested.
    (H.R. 2519 & S. 1182)

  • Ensure those returning from active duty retain re-employment rights

    The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects the rights of servicemembers to be re-employed after returning from active duty, including reserve or
    National Guard members. The American Legion wants to prohibit employers from pressuring a veteran into waiving his or her veteran’s employment rights and protections.
    (Resolution 315)

  • Continue funding programs to end veterans homelessness

    To fully implement VA’s pledge to eradicate veterans homelessness, Congress must continue making responsible investments in affordable housing and programs such as Supportive
    Services for Veteran Families that move veterans and their families off the street and into stable housing.
    (Resolution 340)

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Disclaimer: The American Legion’s work is never done! These legislative priorities have been marked “achieved” because we were able to get the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that the President of the United States signed into law. It is important to note that after passage, your American Legion professional staff often participates in the federal rulemaking that translates law into VA or government policy. We are always vigilant in ensuring our veterans receive the healthcare and benefits they have earned through their service to our great nation, and we will fight every effort to reduce or curtail them. Ensuring the protections, benefits, and rights of our servicemembers, veterans, and their families, has and will always be a primary focus of the National Legislative Commission and Division.”

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Vets Invade the Canyon

The American Legion will be celebrating its 100th year of service to our Veterans, Communities and Nation in the coming year. As such, Legion Posts’ throughout our “Great Nation” will be hosting a variety of events in honor of this centennial milestone.

The State of Florida is planning a two-day Concert Birthday Celebration, hosted by American Legion Post #155 of Crystal River, Florida and supported by fellow Legion Posts 237, 166, and 77. This event is known as “Vets Invade the Canyon” and is scheduled to take place January 18th and 19th, 2019. There will be two shows, one on Friday night (January 18th) and one on Saturday night (January 19th). Each night of the event will have two feature acts with a short ceremony between each act paying tribute to our Veterans.

The proceeds from the “Vets Invade the Canyon” Concert Birthday Celebration will be donated to the Florida American Legion Program called “PROJECT: VETRELIEF”, which is a 501c3 charitable organization. The mission of “PROJECT: VETRELIEF” is to provide support for our service men and women as they transition into civilian life, with the vision of one day to live in a nation where no service member stands alone. All funds raised from this event are slated for Veterans of Florida. The American Legion of Florida supports Florida’s service members whether they are active duty, newly returned, or have been honorably separated for years, in addition to their immediate family, at no cost.

Should you have any questions regarding the “Vets Invade the Canyon” Concert Birthday Celebration or PROJECT: VETRELIEF please contact Gerry Kaufman at (407) 218-9139, Doug Hockenberry at (727) 514-3742 or me directly at (352) 212-8750.

Larry White
Finance Officer
American Legion Post 155

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Packing Event at Post 273

“Tampa Bay Troop Support held another packing event at Post 273, and will be able to ship 210 boxes to our troops overseas!

Thank you Dave & Sharon Dabney. Their purpose is to make a difference in the lives of our Soldiers by sending care packages to different units in different places. We want them to know that they are in our thoughts, and we appreciate everything they do.

Thank you also to all the volunteers who helped out, and to Commander White and our Post 273 Auxiliary.”

Submitted by:
Anthony Torregrossa
2nd Vice Commander, Post 273

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Post 273 Presents $15,000 Donation to Fisher House

Commander Jim White(right) presents a $15,000 donation to Shentrela Diggins, manager of Fisher House at the Bay Pines V.A. on behalf of the Post 273 Legion, SAL & Auxiliary. Also pictured are Executive Officer Dick Karol(left) who led this year’s fundraising drive, and Finance Officer Dick Gifford(center). Post 273 has now donated a total of $50,000 to our local Fisher House at Bay Pines in the past three years.

Fisher Houses are onsite residences where military & veterans families can stay free of charge, while a loved one is in the hospital. They have private bedrooms and baths, and families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a warm dining room and an inviting living room.

Submitted by:
Anthony Torregrossa
2nd Vice Commander

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Gov. Scott Announces 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the release of the 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide. The annual guide, created by the Florida Defense Support Task Force, offers a summary of Florida’s laws, programs and services benefitting military service members and their families. It also highlights Florida’s low tax and financial advantages, educational benefits, professional licensure opportunities and fee waivers for service men, women and their families stationed in Florida. A digital copy of the 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide is available HERE.

Governor Scott said, “As a proud Navy veteran, and the son of a World War II veteran, I want to make sure our military and their families have access to the services they need. Florida is the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation, and since I took office, we’ve invested hundreds of millions in funding for services and benefits for our military and veterans. Our Florida Military-Friendly Guide is another great resource for our military members to learn more about these great benefits and everything Florida has to offer to those who serve.”

Florida is home to more than 1.5 million veterans, 20 major military installations and three unified commands. Since 2011, under the leadership of Governor Scott, Florida has invested hundreds of millions in funding to support active military, veterans and their families – including more than $180 million in this year’s budget. Governor Scott’s focus on serving those that serve our nation has also helped drive down the unemployment rate for veterans in Florida to a low 2.9 percent – nearly an entire percent lower than the national average and a decrease of more than six percent since 2010. To foster enhanced cooperation between state agencies and Florida’s military installations, Governor Scott holds regular meetings with Florida’s base commanders and heads of state agencies.

Representative Jay Trumbull of Panama City, Chair of the Florida Defense Support Task Force, said, “The Florida Military-Friendly Guide is a great resource for military service men, women and their families in the Sunshine State. Enterprise Florida and the Florida Defense Support Task Force will continue to support military members and their families, and work to maintain Florida’s status as the most military-friendly state in the nation.”

The defense industry provides an annual economic impact of $84.9 billion and accounts for more than 801,000 jobs in Florida. Defense continues to be the fourth largest contributor to the state economy behind agriculture and tourism. The Florida Military-Friendly Guide is distributed annually to Florida’s military bases and defense communities.

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Governor Signs 2018 Florida Purple Heart Day Proclamation

Gov. Rick Scott has signed the annual Florida Purple Heart Day Proclamation. The governor calls upon Floridians to pay special tribute to those members of the Armed Forces who have received the Purple Heart, while also honoring the families of the fallen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 is Florida Purple Heart Day.

Click here to print proclamation.

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Navy’s First Female Admiral, Alene Duerk, Passes Away

Story Number: NNS180725-04Release Date: 7/25/2018 12:58:00 PM
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

An undated official portrait of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk. Duerk entered the Navy in January 1943 and initially served as a ward nurse at the Portsmouth and Bethesda naval hospitals. She was later assigned to the hospital ship USS Benevolence and deployed to the Pacific Theater during World War II in support of Adm. William Halsey’s Third Fleet. In May 1970, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps. She became the first woman to attain flag rank in the U.S. Navy on June 1, 1972. Duerk was born in Defiance, Ohio and retired from the Navy in 1975. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, passed away July 21, 2018. She was 98 years old.

“It took 197 years and a forward-looking Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, to break with tradition before Alene Duerk became the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy,” said Naval History and Heritage Command director Sam Cox. “But the credit goes to Duerk. From the crucible of caring for wounded Sailors, Marines and prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific, she blazed a trail of stellar performance in tough jobs, serving as an inspiration for an ever increasing number of women officers who have followed her path.”

Born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920, she received nursing training at the Toledo [Ohio] Hospital School of Nursing, from which she earned her diploma in 1941. From there, Duerk entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was appointed an ensign in the Nurse Corps.

“Alene Duerk was a strong and dedicated trail blazer who embodied the very principles that continue to guide Navy Medicine today,” commented Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general, upon learning of her passing. “She will forever be remembered as a servant leader who provided the best care to those who defended our nation, honoring the uniform we wear and the privilege of leadership.”

Her first tours of duty included ward nurse at Naval Hospital Portsmouth in Virginia, Naval Hospital Bethesda in Maryland, and sea service aboard the Navy hospital ship, USS Benevolence (AH 13), in 1945. While anchored off the coast of Eniwetok, Duerk and the crew of the Benevolence would attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from the Third Fleet’s operations against Japan.

Upon cessation of hostilities on Sept. 2, 1945, Duerk and the Benevolence crew took on the task of repatriating liberated Allied prisoners of war, an endeavor that solidified her commitment to nursing and patient care.

An undated file photo of Rear Adm. Alene Duerk during a promotion ceremony with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, left, and Secretary of the Navy John Warner. Duerk entered the Navy in January 1943 and initially served as a ward nurse at the Portsmouth and Bethesda naval hospitals. She was later assigned to the hospital ship USS Benevolence and deployed to the Pacific Theater during World War II in support of Adm. William Halsey’s Third Fleet. In May 1970, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps. She became the first woman to attain flag rank in the U.S. Navy on June 1, 1972. Duerk was born in Defiance, Ohio and retired from the Navy in 1975. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Years later, when asked about her service for the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project, Duerk said, “The time I was aboard the hospital ship and we took the prisoners of war, that was something I will never forget . . . that was the most exciting experience of my whole career.”

Thereafter, Duerk was assigned to Naval Hospital Great Lakes until being released from active service in 1946.

In 1951, Duerk returned to active duty serving as a nursing instructor at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Va. and later as inter-service education coordinator at the Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Penn.
Her skills in ward management, surgical nursing and mentoring would be put to use over the next two decades while serving at hospitals in San Diego; and Yokosuka, Japan; at the Recruiting Station in Chicago; and in Wash., D.C.

In May 1970, following assignments as assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and assistant head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps) at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps.

Over the next five years, Duerk provided direction for the Nurse Corps, updating policies affecting Navy Medicine and expanding the sphere of nursing into ambulatory care, anesthesia, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.

Her selection to the rank of rear admiral was approved by President Richard Nixon on April 26, 1972. The first woman to be selected for flag rank, she was advanced on June 1, 1972.

Rear Adm. Duerk retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate for Navy nursing through the remainder of her life.

Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.

Duerk’s biography offers greater insight into her service, it can be found online at the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command here: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/women-in-the-navy/first-female-flag-officer.html

See the entry on Duerk at the Library of Congress Veteran’s History Project online here: http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.28852

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

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2018 Freedom Raffle Winners Announced

We are pleased to announce the WINNERS of the 2018 Freedom Raffle as follows:

 

  • Grand Prize winner of $10,000 – Frank Klimekoski
  • 2nd Place winner of $2,500 – Jose Cintron
  • 3rd Place winner of $1,000 – James Allbrook
  • 4th – 5th Place winners of $500 – William Coopy, Barry Murante
  • 6th – 10th Place winners of $100 – David LeRoy, James Handly, John McCoy, William Walz, Steven Pommer

 

All recipients will be notified within the coming week by The American Legion, Department of Florida.
To watch the live footage of the drawing, click here. The Raffle is featured at the 6:00:36 time mark.
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American Legion’s call to Congress: Pass the VA Mission Act of 2018

Dear American Legion Family and Friends,

There is no question that The American Legion is the largest veterans service organization, and we have the influence that we do on Capitol Hill because of our active and caring members. With that said, there is an opportunity this week for The American Legion’s voice to be heard on Capitol Hill.

The VA MISSION Act of 2018 (S. 2372) will be going for a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 16. If passed, this bill would do several things to help veterans, including:

  1. Streamlining all of the community care programs, including the Veterans Choice Program, into one common sense program.
  2. Expanding the VA’s caregivers program to all war eras of veterans, not just the post-9/11 generation, which is critical. This program should be available to all war eras and the veterans who proudly served our great nation.
  3. Providing $5.2 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs to appropriately fund the Veterans Choice Program through the next year while the community care programs are being modified and streamlined. This means the VA will not have to continuously ask Congress for more money, which will allow veterans to receive the immediate care they need and where they need it.

Supporting these issues has long been a goal of The American Legion, and this is the time to get it done. From streamlining the multiple ways and programs a veteran can obtain care in the community into one simple program, to opening the caregiver program to all veterans of any war era, to ensuring the VA has the funding necessary to provide the best care anywhere, the VA MISSION Act of 2018 is a great step forward for veterans.

Please call your congressman or congresswoman and let them know that The American Legion supports S. 2372, the VA MISSION Act of 2018, and encourage them to pass this veteran-centric bill as soon as possible.

Throughout my year as your national commander, I have made “Family First” my theme. It’s time that Congress does the same.

There is some opposition to this legislation so your quick action can make the difference. Call now and tell your representative to support the VA Mission Act of 2018. You can find your representative’s phone number by entering your zip code at https://ziplook.house.gov/htbin/findrep_house?ZIP or by calling the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121; (press 2 for House).

Family First!

Denise H. Rohan
National Commander
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Quarterly Veterans Town Hall Scheduled for May 16 at St. Petersburg VA Regional Office

 

Bay Pines VAHCS Office of Public Affairs | April 26, 2018

BAY PINES, Fla. – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, in collaboration with the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office and Bay Pines National Cemetery, will host a quarterly Veterans town hall meeting on Wednesday, May 16 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. The event will take place at the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office in the atrium located on the second floor. Click here for driving directions and a campus map.

VA outreach services and special program representatives will also be available to assist Veterans beginning at 12:00 p.m. and will remain available throughout the duration of the town hall. Services available will include VA health care enrollment and eligibility; VA benefits and claims assistance; and patient advocate services. Veterans and their families, congressional stakeholders, Veteran Service Organizations and other community partners are invited to attend.

During  the town hall, Bay Pines National Cemetery Assistant Director Eugenia Simmons will present pre-need eligibility services available through the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). In addition, local VA leaders will provide updates on VA operations and improvement initiatives. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to comment publicly about VA programs and services.

This event is open to media. Media representatives interested in attending are encouraged to contact Jason Dangel, Public Affairs Officer, Bay Pines VAHCS, at 727-398-9531 or email vhabaypublicaffairs@va.gov prior to the event.

For updated information about the Veterans town hall meeting or to learn more about the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, please visit www.baypines.va.gov. To learn more about the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, please visit www.benefits.va.gov/stpetersburg. You can also receive information by subscribing to receive updates via email at www.baypines.va.gov/news/enews_subscribe.asp, or by connecting with us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/vabaypines, and Twitter, www.twitter.com/vabaypines.

About the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System 
The Bay Pines VAHCS is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems, employing nearly 4,300 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing the very best care to Veterans residing in southwest Florida. The organization is one of the largest VA health care systems in the country in terms of patients served and is accredited by The Joint Commission, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and several other nationally recognized accrediting organizations. The Bay Pines VAHCS operates nine facilities to include the main medical center located in Bay Pines and outpatient clinics located in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Sebring. To learn more, please visit www.baypines.va.gov, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vabaypines, or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vabaypines.

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